Spending on Employee Wellness Programs Steadily Rises

by: Nichole Gunn April 11, 2011

A recent survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) demonstrated that 75 percent of respondent business owners have initiated more than 19 various employee wellness programs. Along with this, exactly half of those respondents increased their programs by a minimum of one during 2010. To further show the onward movement of health and wellness programs, 63 percent intend to initiate a new program in 2011. This certainly demonstrates how serious employers are thinking about the benefits of these programs.

The study also found that 40 percent of the respondents intend to add “high-risk management programs in 2011,” such as stress tests, biometric tests, and a number of other health evaluations. Along with this, 32 percent intend to offer lifestyle management programs featuring preventive health strategies, and 30 percent predict they will initiate management and communication strategies, such as employee wellness publications that will include newsletters.

In a press release, president and CEO of NBGH Helen Darling noted, “Growing numbers of employers nationwide recognize the importance of having a healthy workforce and its link to improving productivity and reducing rising health care costs." She added, “We believe strongly that the various wellness initiatives that employers are undertaking will have long-lasting positive results for employers, workers and their families."

These increased employee wellness strategies also included increased funding for the programs. According to the survey, the companies participating said they spend 30 percent more on wellness initiatives per employee. With the rise of diabetes, it is not surprising that monitoring of the disease drew the most attention. Blood sugar testing consisted of 41 percent of employee spending on average. Interestingly, that percentage dropped from 2009, by 2 percent.

Communication strategy is also taking focus as companies are spending significantly more on informing its employees of the benefits of wellness programs. Fidelity and NGBH found that spending increased from 5 to 20 percent during 2010. The funds were aimed at health-risk management strategies, including health fairs and a number of other communicative strategies. Stress management programs though remained at approximately 30 percent.

Senior vice president of Fidelity’s benefits consulting business Sunit Patel stated, “Employers know that a healthier workforce is more productive in the long term." He went on to explain that prior wellness programs “typically had modest impact because of low participation rates, but our study indicated that incentives are starting to make a real difference in employee interest and engagement."

Employee incentives, along with loyalty program strategies are effective ways for companies to motivate and engage employees. It’s been found that wellness programs enhance an employee’s well being, which in turn enhances his potential livelihood and reduces healthcare costs. The programs also have the potential to create a closer company bond and help to boost employee loyalty.